Thursday, November 15, 2018

What if we follow Peter's instructions? Conclusion

We're concluding our study today of some "guarantees" that Peter laid out....results we can expect if we follow his instructions and "add to our faith" as he told us to do. We've seen that we are guaranteed that we'll be fruitful if we keep on adding "in increasing measure" the traits of virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love. We've also noted that we'll be blessed with spiritual discernment, wisdom for the journey.

Today we will look at the end of verse 9, and then verses 10 and 11:
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"....forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins." Let's do the same thing we did yesterday -- I think it makes it clearer! Let's turn from the negative to the positive..... "not forgetting" that we've been cleansed from our past sins.
Which one of us can raise our hand and say, "I've never, ever doubted for a moment my salvation."
Now, how long have you had this problem with telling the truth? (Grin)
I don't think any of us can say that we have never, ever had doubts about our salvation; I'm betting that we all have doubted from time to time. Or perhaps we've thought about and dwelt on past sins that are still seared into our memories. Things that send a chill up our spine. That make us cringe. That make us think, "how can I face my Savior in heaven, having done/said that?"

That's perfectly normal.
The important thing is to not let our thoughts incapacitate us. If these thoughts are allowed to become fears, and then allowed to overwhelm us, we may be so overcome that we're no use to the Lord. We are then unable to focus on the tasks that He gives us, because we are dwelling on these past issues.
And boy, let me tell you, that makes the devil happy-dance!
But Peter says that we can have assurance of our salvation. We can rest assured that our sins are way back in the rear-view mirror....
Verse 10 says that this godly life, this spiritual growth can keep us from falling. If we keep adding these things in our Christian growth, Peter says we are guaranteed not to fall. Whoaaaaaa.
You sure about that, Peter?
Every single one of us has fallen from time to time. Peter, you did, too.
Here's what I think Peter is trying to show us -- and from his own life, too. The Christian who is continually growing walks with confidence because she knows she is secure in Christ. It's not her profession of faith that produces that confidence -- after all, that is how Peter stumbled that night before the fire. He had professed faith, but he'd not grown enough to deal with the temptations that the devil presented that night!  It's our progression in our faith that gives us that assurance. If we claim to be Christians, but our character and our conduct show no evidence of spiritual growth, then we are deceiving ourselves. We may have professed faith, but we need to ask the Holy Spirit to work with us (and show us in the Bible) to determine where the gaps are in our growth. We need to add those "vitamins" that we talked about last week!

Some scholars have interjected that by "falling" Peter is pointing to "falling away," or backsliding. That people who exhibit spiritual growth will not easily fall due to false teaching, nor will they easily give up their relationship and slip into a backslidden condition. I find those good points, as well.

I don't want to venture too far into the weeds, but I do want us to look at the words that Peter used in this passage: Peter pointed out that "calling" and "election" go together. Calling means to be a Christian, and election means chosen by God to live His way. The same God who elects His people also ordains the means (the Spirit) to call them.  When we talk to unbelievers about our Savior we are telling them the Gospel -- God uses that Gospel to call them to repentance, and then they discover that they were chosen by the God Who loves them!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)
Peter is talking about true security here. And he exhorts us to "be diligent." The word he uses means to make every effort. While it's true that God must work in us before we can do His will, it's also true that we must be willing for Him to work, and that we must invest in the process as well. A dedication to daily Bible study and prayer is the way we show that.
The Christian who is sure of her election and calling will not stumble and wallow in the mire, but will prove by a consistent life that she is truly a child of God. She will not always be on the mountaintop (and she may feel her feet slip momentarily) but she will always be climbing higher. If we do the things Peter has detailed here; if we display spiritual growth and Christian character in our daily lives, then we can be sure we are saved -- we can be sure that we are changed, and will one day see Him in heaven!
In fact, the growing Christian can look forward to "an abundant entrance" into heaven....the words Peter used were also used by the Greeks to describe the welcome given to Olympic winners when they returned home.
Our Christian lives begin with faith, but that faith must lead to spiritual growth. Growth leads to practical results: people who have this kind of faith are not likely to fall to false teachings, and they will show fruitfulness and discernment in their lives and service to Christ.
The Lord will guide you always;    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.You will be like a well-watered garden,    like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
This passage in II Peter assures us that we've been given all that we need to live as a Christian in our world today. Are we going to use those gifts to live God's way?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What if we follow Peter's instructions?

This week we are searching for the results of adding those supplements to our faith....what if we follow Peter's instructions -- what happens?

Yesterday we studied verse 8, where Peter noted that we would be fruitful for the Lord. Awesome! Now let's move on to the next result:
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (II Peter 1:8-9)
OK, let's turn that around and see if it's more plain...."whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind," becomes "if you have these you are clear-sighted and not blind." Hmmmm, got it! Peter says those supplements, in increasing measure (in other words, spiritual growth) will guarantee spiritual discernment!
I'm stoked, how about you? (Grin)
Many people have no spiritual discernment. They are blind to spiritual things, and are easily led astray. equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-15)
Peter is saying that when these things: virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love are active in our lives, we will be able to see the tricks, traps, and temptations of the devil.
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,    turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 13:14)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
We'll be able to help others who have fallen into the devil's traps, too:
...and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (II Timothy 2:26)
We'll be able to see the needs of others and not be blinded by our own selfish interests:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
We won't ever be blind and in spiritual darkness again! God will be our guide.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;I will turn the darkness into light before them    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;    I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
Father, as we grow in you, increase our spiritual discernment!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Prayer requests

Across the miles....
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.(Matthew 18:19-20)
I would like to thank all of you who have stopped by here, and who emailed me directly, to let me know that you were praying with me during my recent surgery and recovery.  To me, it's truly awe-inspiring to realize that across the globe, prayer warriors were kneeling with me and supporting my efforts to recuperate. I'm sincerely grateful for all of the prayers and notes that I received. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Now, I'd like to ask if anyone would like to leave a prayer request here today. Let us know if you are concerned about health issues, financial, family relationships, or just the dreary weather. All kidding aside, this time of year is very difficult for many of us, as the sun shines fewer hours and the holidays approach. Whether it's Seasonal Affective Disorder or dreading the holidays for too many people or too few, we can all be subject to the blues.

If it's personal, just leave an unspoken request if that's more comfortable for you. The Father will know when we mention your name, just what the problem is.

It's a privilege to pray for each other. In the same room is nice, but across the miles works, too!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Monday, November 12, 2018

The "why" and the "what if"

Peter, the fisherman turned apostle, has had a lot to say to us lately!
I'd like to turn our thoughts back to his second letter, and then ask a couple of questions....
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:3-11)
First of all, look up there at verse 5. See where Peter says "for this very reason"?  He's telling us "why" we should be diligent. Why we should strive to add those "vitamins" to our faith. You remember, right? Virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual (or brotherly) love, and agape love.
The "why" is that God has gifted us with His power -- that's so we can live a godly life. And He's given us His great and precious promises, too. Really good reasons why we should strive diligently to add to our faith, and become more like Him.

Now, what are the results? The what if? What happens if we do what he has so carefully told us to do?
Starting in verse 8, Peter lays out some things that we can count on, if we follow his instructions in the previous verses. Let's focus on verse 8 today:
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I don't know about you, but in about two months, some really pretty catalogs will hit my mailbox (yes, I'm old school and I LOVE to turn the pages of real catalogs!) and I will tuck them under my arm, pull up my collar against the cold wind, and trudge back to the warm house (about a quarter of a mile). I do love me the Burpee catalog, and others like it. I thumb through the pages and mark plants and trees that I want to try growing here.
Now, some of the plants or trees need specific things to "be fruitful." Some berries and fruit trees have "male" and "female" plants; you need to plant one of each in order to have the yummy harvest that you're anticipating.
Others need very specific soil conditions; one must be careful to amend the soil if the plant likes acidic soil, or if it prefers alkaline. Some plants can tolerate moisture, and others don't like to get their feet wet. Some need fertilizers at certain times in the seasons.
Some of the plants in the catalog will have a guarantee. They will live, or they will bear fruit in a certain length of time.

I believe that Peter is saying in verse 8 that those vitamins we talked about last week will make certain that we are fruitful. It's like that guarantee in the plant catalog. (Grin)
Peter says that if we have these traits in ever-increasing measure, we are guaranteed to be fruitful Christians. 
We won't be barren.
We won't be unproductive.
We will be fruitful branches for God's glory!
We will be effective witnesses with our lives and with our words.
Remember this from our study of John's gospel?
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.....I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:1-2,5)
This is the goal of our heavenly Father - for us to remain in Him and be fruitful. Is it the desire of our hearts to bear fruit for Him? What fruits can people see in our lives? Do they see proofs of our relationship with Him? That's something to think about...
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. (Luke 6:43-44)
"Apart from me you can do nothing." God has equipped us with the tools we need, and He's given us the instructions. Then He has given us the power that we need, in order to do our tasks.  The moment that we believe we can go it alone, or try to go it alone, we've failed. Big time. Here's the good news, though: when we recognize that we need Him, and repent and ask, He is empowering us.

He only asks for us to participate.
Lord, empower us to be fruitful for you!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Recovery week - day 5

A worship song to guide our thoughts to our Father God. I hope all who pause here receive a blessing.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Recovery week - day 4

Once I was lost, I was deep in despair....

Satan had me bound, in my mind, everywhere....

Jesus brought me up and turned my life around....

Now I'm on my way!

The sheer joy and exuberance of this video will have you happy-dancing the rest of today!!

Praise the Lord!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Recovery week - day 3

Recently, I've had conversations with several folks who were wrestling with the issue of past sins.....and I totally understand.....I've been there, too. I would keep remembering the things that made me cringe; there were things that stayed in my mind, although my heart kept telling me that I'd already told Jesus about them -- and He had gently taken my hand and assured me of His forgiveness.  My heart was overflowing with joy the day the Spirit told me, "You may remember those things, but He doesn't. He has forgiven you. Those sins are as far from you as the east is from the west!" I finally understood what "under the blood" really meant.  Now, when I recall those things, instead of asking again for forgiveness, I thank Him for His grace and mercy. Praise Him!

I was blind
Or maybe I just didn't want to see
How foolishly I tried
To build my own destiny
But all my well-constructed plans
Failed me time and time again
So my broken heart came to Him
With empty hands

That's when Jesus changed everything
Jesus changed everything
There is joy overflowing
I'm forgiven and free
Jesus changed everything

I was filled with pain and guilt
But now I know His peace
The chains of yesterday
Have now been released
The bitterness that I once knew
The anger that inside me grew
Were all washed away
By the grace and made me knew

Jesus changed everything
Jesus changed everything
There is joy overflowing
I'm forgiven and free
Jesus changed everything